The Gossip Train Keeps Churning, and There’s No Way Off It

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Brad Pitt Angelina JolieGetty Images

I’m the chairman of my college reunion committee. It’s mostly fun and not terribly time consuming, but there are certain responsibilities that go along with it, especially since a rather significant anniversary is coming up soon. So, there are smaller events planned and executed, to alert alums to the impending celebration and try to drum up interest.

Wednesday night was one such gathering and a few people I used to know joined me at a beloved pizza joint near our alma mater in to chat and reminisce and talk about things in general. Politics came up and there was a general agreement about the horror of the current situation and the overall state of the union, some sports chatter, and then, of course, because it had just happened, someone mentioned the break up of Brangelina.

“They seemed so happy,” one of my former classmates lamented. He sounded so sad about it, I had to check and make sure he wasn’t joking. When I realized that he wasn’t, I almost choked on my pizza. I mean, how on earth would he know? Someone else wondered aloud about what would happen to their kids, and I just shook my head. Now we’re worrying about what’s going to happen to the children of two spectacularly successful and wealthy parents, each of whom probably has a nanny of their own? Really?

I am well aware that celebrity gossip has been around as long as there have been celebrities, but I have never really understood the appeal. I know there’s an escapist aspect to it, of course, along with the idea that people can feel both joy and schadenfreude at the news that their favorite famous people have problems, too. Celebrities, they’re just like us!

Hedda HopperShutterstock

I actually found myself in the unique position of feeling sorry for George Clooney, who learned from an interviewer about the situation while he was at the United Nations, doing his humanitarian thing. He looked genuinely shaken up about it, which makes sense because he’s actually friends with the couple. I mean, who hasn’t had friends of theirs get divorced?

A couple times in my , I have worked in some part of the celebrity gossip trade and, while I took a paycheck for it, I always felt a little dirty that I had a hand in feeding that particular beast. The way folks reacted, their obsession with the foibles of the rich and famous, was fascinating to me. It’s gotten more extreme, of course, as our society has sunk to the point where we either publicly revel in the misfortune of others, or feel such a close, albeit completely artificial, kinship with them that we suffer their misfortunes as if they were our own. I’m not entirely certain which is worse.

My point is, I have to confess to not caring in the slightest about why Brad and Angelina broke up, or who was or wasn’t involved, or what was behind it, because it doesn’t affect my life in the tiniest of ways, but clearly a lot of other people do, because that’s all I’ve been able to see in the news. The Hollywood Reporter posted a story about which of the couple would do better at the box office. Variety had two stories, one of them a photo series of the couple through the years, the other a “property portfolio.” Hell, even the celebrity nudity site MrSkin got in on the action, posting a photo array entitled, “Battle of the Babes: Brad Pitt’s Angelina Breakup for Marion Cotillard Edition.” Because, of course. Why not? Anything to grab attention at someone else’s expense, right?

Mr and Mrs Smith20th Century Fox

So we’re clear, I’m not here to rail against the gossip machine. That would be pointless. It’s more that, almost in spite of myself, I cannot help but be surprised at the size and scope of the reaction to the news of Brangelina’s parting. Two uber-famous people who were together for a dozen years or so and married for the last two have broken up, and the world has lost its collective mind. I thought the internet was going to break when Taylor Swift first dated, then broke up with Tom Hiddleston, and words enough to intimidate Ayn Rand were written about what this might do to his , but that’s nothing compared to this.

One would think that, with all the bad stuff going on right now — this genuinely scary election, the continued murdering of people of color and the increased number of protests arising because of it, bombs blowing up in our biggest cities and constant fear about the decline of American society — we would have bigger fish to fry, but no, suddenly this was the biggest news story of the day. Bigger than Trump and Hillary, bigger than Charlotte, bigger than everything, and that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Escapism, the dedication of our attentions to things that just aren’t nearly as important as the real life issues we are forced to face, is an understandable choice. It really is. I don’t necessarily look down on people who pay attention to this stuff, because hey, we all need a hobby. Mine is reading comic books, and I know plenty who think that’s silly and juvenile. Conversely, some like to follow the lives of the rich and famous, and that’s okay, too, as long as they don’t take it too seriously.

And I guess that’s sort of my problem. That too many people are doing just that. Because of it, I think this is what has me worried. Well, maybe not worried, but certainly concerned. Concerned that we’re doing it to such a degree that we’re taking our eye off the ball. That we’ve restructured our priorities and done a lousy of it. That we’re paying too much attention to the wrong things and letting the big ones get past us.

This is an important time to be alive. We shouldn’t waste it.


ProfilePic adjusted 2 is a filmmaker and journalist who has spent close to two decades working in and about Hollywood. Feel free to send him a tweet at @neilturitz. He’ll more than likely respond.

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1 Comment

  1. It’s called empathy. Pretty healthy thing, according to studies. Of course, everything must be in balance, but your message is very much egocentric. So I think it is something wrong with you, rather then with all the others. I don’t take their break up personally, but I can’t not feel bad aboud two people, who’ve been together for a long time, being unable to understand each other anymore. By the way, I like your other posts.

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